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EXPLAINING EVOLUTIONARY INNOVATION AND NOVELTY: A HISTORICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL STUDY OF BIOLOGICAL CONCEPTS

Love, Alan Christopher (2006) EXPLAINING EVOLUTIONARY INNOVATION AND NOVELTY: A HISTORICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL STUDY OF BIOLOGICAL CONCEPTS. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.

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    Abstract

    Explaining evolutionary novelties (such as feathers or neural crest cells) is a central item on the research agenda of evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo). Proponents of Evo-devo have claimed that the origin of innovation and novelty constitutes a distinct research problem, ignored by evolutionary theory during the latter half of the 20th century, and that Evo-devo as a synthesis of biological disciplines is in a unique position to address this problem. In order to answer historical and philosophical questions attending these claims, two philosophical tools were developed. The first, conceptual clusters, captures the joint deployment of concepts in the offering of scientific explanations and allows for a novel definition of conceptual change. The second, problem agendas, captures the multifaceted nature of explanatory domains in biological science and their diachronic stability. The value of problem agendas as an analytical unit is illustrated through the examples of avian feather and flight origination. Historical research shows that explanations of innovation and novelty were not ignored. They were situated in disciplines such as comparative embryology, morphology, and paleontology (exemplified in the research of N.J. Berrill, D.D. Davis, and W.K. Gregory), which were overlooked because of a historiography emphasizing the relations between genetics and experimental embryology. This identified the origin of Evo-devo tools (developmental genetics) but missed the source of its problem agenda. The structure of developmental genetic explanations of innovations and novelties is compared and contrasted with those of other disciplinary approaches, past and present. Applying the tool of conceptual clusters to these explanations reveals a unique form of conceptual change over the past five decades: a change in the causal and evidential concepts appealed to in explanations. Specification of the criteria of explanatory adequacy for the problem agenda of innovation and novelty indicates that Evo-devo qua disciplinary synthesis requires more attention to the construction of integrated explanations from its constituent disciplines besides developmental genetics. A model for explanations integrating multiple disciplinary contributions is provided. The phylogenetic approach to philosophy of science utilized in this study is relevant to philosophical studies of other sciences and meets numerous criteria of adequacy for analyses of conceptual change.


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    Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
    ETD Committee:
    ETD Committee TypeCommittee MemberEmail
    Committee ChairLennox, James G.jglennox@pitt.edu
    Committee MemberWagner, G√ľnter P.gunter.wagner@yale.edu
    Committee MemberOlby, Robert C.olbyr@comcast.net
    Committee MemberRaff, Rudolf A.rraff@bio.indiana.edu
    Committee MemberMitchell, Sandra D.smitchel@pitt.edu
    Title: EXPLAINING EVOLUTIONARY INNOVATION AND NOVELTY: A HISTORICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL STUDY OF BIOLOGICAL CONCEPTS
    Status: Unpublished
    Abstract: Explaining evolutionary novelties (such as feathers or neural crest cells) is a central item on the research agenda of evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo). Proponents of Evo-devo have claimed that the origin of innovation and novelty constitutes a distinct research problem, ignored by evolutionary theory during the latter half of the 20th century, and that Evo-devo as a synthesis of biological disciplines is in a unique position to address this problem. In order to answer historical and philosophical questions attending these claims, two philosophical tools were developed. The first, conceptual clusters, captures the joint deployment of concepts in the offering of scientific explanations and allows for a novel definition of conceptual change. The second, problem agendas, captures the multifaceted nature of explanatory domains in biological science and their diachronic stability. The value of problem agendas as an analytical unit is illustrated through the examples of avian feather and flight origination. Historical research shows that explanations of innovation and novelty were not ignored. They were situated in disciplines such as comparative embryology, morphology, and paleontology (exemplified in the research of N.J. Berrill, D.D. Davis, and W.K. Gregory), which were overlooked because of a historiography emphasizing the relations between genetics and experimental embryology. This identified the origin of Evo-devo tools (developmental genetics) but missed the source of its problem agenda. The structure of developmental genetic explanations of innovations and novelties is compared and contrasted with those of other disciplinary approaches, past and present. Applying the tool of conceptual clusters to these explanations reveals a unique form of conceptual change over the past five decades: a change in the causal and evidential concepts appealed to in explanations. Specification of the criteria of explanatory adequacy for the problem agenda of innovation and novelty indicates that Evo-devo qua disciplinary synthesis requires more attention to the construction of integrated explanations from its constituent disciplines besides developmental genetics. A model for explanations integrating multiple disciplinary contributions is provided. The phylogenetic approach to philosophy of science utilized in this study is relevant to philosophical studies of other sciences and meets numerous criteria of adequacy for analyses of conceptual change.
    Date: 05 July 2006
    Date Type: Completion
    Defense Date: 22 June 2007
    Approval Date: 05 July 2006
    Submission Date: 23 May 2005
    Access Restriction: No restriction; The work is available for access worldwide immediately.
    Patent pending: No
    Institution: University of Pittsburgh
    Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
    Refereed: Yes
    Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
    URN: etd-05232005-142007
    Uncontrolled Keywords: epistemology; history of biology; philosophy of biology
    Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
    Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 14:45
    Last Modified: 13 Jun 2012 09:33
    Other ID: http://etd.library.pitt.edu/ETD/available/etd-05232005-142007/, etd-05232005-142007

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